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Ask HN: How do you manage your life: set goals, plan, manage time, etc.?
27 points by ilia_lotov 7 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 29 comments
What systems and instruments do you use to set goals / priorities? For example, do you use OKRs? How do you define key results? How do you plan and manage your time? What instruments do you use to stay productive? Please give a brief snapshot of your life management routines. Thanks!

This may be an unpopular opinion, but I stopped making even close term plans/goals a few months ago because I was obsessively over planing. After a few months of this strategy I can say I'm better off than I was.

Here's another unpopular opinion about staying motivated or productive because this question is on HN almost every day: reach out to a private practice psychiatrist on Zocdoc that has very good reviews where patients literally worship the doctor, but avoid clinics.

Make an appointment and be assertive when you talk with the doctor and be honest that you lack the motivation to perform at work for whatever reason (treatment resistant depression, chronic fatigue, ADHD, anhedonia, etc). Wait a few months while they put you on SSRIs or whatever nanny state meds the doctor tries and then say X or whatever isn't working or all have the same side effect and then ask if you can try a stimulant (never take an antipsychotic, they are impossible to get off of and are overprescribed by doctors these days).

You would be surprised that your doctor will actually give you what you ask for. However, I don't recommend amphetamines such as adderall until a few months on ritalin, because ritalin is kind of hard on your heart. You may have to try Wellbutrin first since it's technically a mild stimulant but just say it didn't work for you because honestly it's only good for quitting smoking.

You only get about 10 minutes each month to talk to your psychiatrist and you'll have to commit to that each month. If you do get narcotics then the first thing to do is go buy a ksafe to put them in.

This advice is obviously for those reading whom have tried everything in terms of motivation without results, but I feel that there are many among us for whom this is the case. Lastly, I'll say that you don't have to be mentally ill to be a better you and there are plenty of doctors who would agree.

>This may be an unpopular opinion, but I stopped making even close term plans/goals a few months ago

What a coincidence I also stopped making even close term plans when I reached 36/37. I felt that I needed to drastically reduce my focus instead of trying to make plans that I had never been able to follow for more than two months.

You must make some sort of plans? I’ve done some backpack traveling and would always have a rough plan that I didn’t follow very well, but I feel the plan helped. I wanted to get to Venice. What would I do when I GOT to Venice?

Meet a cool Australian guy to go out drinking all night and ridE around on these water buses to various places all day wasn’t in the plan.

So I think an outline of a plan you know will change seems to still have value.

IMHO, It is like sailing on a boat - you at least need to have a rough direction, otherwise you will get nowhere

Yeah but just really rough plans, unlike the ones I made before with steps and others.

Ledger-cli for finances.

Plain structured text for daily goal progress ('2021-02-20 no-hn false'). For structure I use vnlog. For plotting I use R.

I track workouts the same way.

I use OKRs every quarter. KRs are things I need to do every day/ week (workout 90x or read 36x or assemble that one project or set up 13 dates w the wife).

All the text files and scripts live on a private git server. I've been doing this for 6 years now. It works for me because it has a daily component (a few entries in a text file) an easy way to track progress for that dopamine hit (run the plotting scripts).

For the tech stack: I use nextcloud on a physical machine at home, and a MediaWiki instance as a personal knowledge base.

On a goal and task management:

For tasks, I have a monthly Todo page on my wiki. I use nextcloud calendar provider, with connectors for thunderbird and Android.

For goal management: I learned to tackle a single "big thing" at the time. Right now, I'm dieting, and that's it. I've lost about 6.5kg so far (started at 66.5, 1.65m height). Before that there were things like buying my first apartment, getting RHEL certified, learning kubernetes, learning keepalived, learning django etc.

I have a list of vague things I'd like to do on my wiki, things like "learn German" or "graduate from university" (lol).

So when I'm done with something I look at that page and try and understand what challenge the most sense to take on right now.

The one thing I would like to stress is: whatever thing you adopt, it should be a low effort and a low friction thing. It must be an enabler technology, not an impediment.

Going extreme, for some people a paper notepad and a convention (like bullet journaling or something like that) is more than enough.

Mediawiki. That’s a cool idea. How do you organize organize it and how much detail do you enter? For example, if you’re learning Django do you document what you’re doing or is the wiki more for tracking what you’re doing at a higher level?

Thanks for sharing! Good point on being low- effort and friction. I cannot agree more, if I cannot imagine maintaining a habit for more than a year then there is no point in even starting.

My life mngmnt is no goals, no plans, no work more than one hour a day and sleep as much as I can. So easy to maintain.

Haha, lol, good for you!

I've been struggling with this issue for a long time. I'm currently writing a personal kanban app and will probably hook into _ps_ to see how I spend my daily time and then take it from there.

I figure the best approach is to first get an idea how I spend my time right now and then make plans based on that. I guess it's a little like calorie counting (without actually counting the calories, you are prone to under/over-estimating).

When I have an idea how I spend my time, that's where the kanban comes in - I can estimate how long something will take me vs how long it actually takes. That way I can stop beating myself for not achieving unrealistic goals and know when I'm slacking.

From there on, I expect it'll mostly be about managing constraints (do I have enough time/willpower to do X?) and building habits.

To answer the question behind your question. I think what you're looking for is a way to increase one's personality trait conscientiousness.

It's not easy.

Here's some pointers :



There's likely more out there, obviously.

Conscientiousness is one of the traits, but it is not the only trait important in the process of life planning in my view. I started to think about this topic after re-reading PG's The Anatomy of Determination essay and Sam Altman's Productivity article. http://www.paulgraham.com/determination.html?viewfullsite=1 https://blog.samaltman.com/productivity

That essay you point to doesn't mention conscientiousness or even the big five personality traits.

Of the Big Five personality traits Conscientiousness is the only one strongly predictive of life success. It's the difference between starting a project and petering out or finishing it. It's the difference between self destructive behaviour and grit.






White board and pen

Pen and paper

Google sheets / docs, so my partner and I can share things

Sometimes I email myself thigns

Voice assistant scheduling "Hey google, reminder tomorrow at 3pm to take out the garbage" or such like.

That's it. Anything more complicated creates more friction than value.

Thank you. I still like writing stuff down too. There’s something about it that seems to work better for certain things.

Good points, thank you for sharing! Actually, I meet a lot of tech / VC guys who still love to plan things on paper, mostly due to a lot of distractions in their phones and computers.

Throughout my personal life I use Portfolio SAFe to align strategy with execution and organize my solution development around the flow of value through one or more value streams.

I use:

https://nextcloud.com/ (kanbam board, notes, tasks for longterm goals)

https://turtlapp.com/ (for some extra notes)

https://www.forestapp.cc/ (for tracking my time)

Excel is for tracking my finances.

Phone calendar is for basic day plan. Whole day is set up by work hours, leisure, events, time chunks what I do when etc.

Im learning about Gitlab for my future projects too.

Hope it helps.

Wow, great! Thanks for sharing!

This year I've been using Complice.co which is interesting because it focuses on the present and the past but doesn't have any features for planning the future.

(I'm friendly with the Complice team on Twitter, because they're cool people, but I'm not a shill!)

Every working day, I start with putting today's intentions into Complice, and then I work with the builtin Pomodoro timer. Intentions are structured by a small set of "goals" or "areas." I have four which I call Wellness, World, Research, and Workshop; every intention belongs to one of those, or misc.

I have a small set of basic daily intentions set up, which includes one I call "settle" which means looking through my inbox and my todo list for actionable items I can do without much thinking, and also replying to messages and stuff like that. So I aim to spend one Pomodoro session there, and the goal is to feel like I've "settled" my basic relation to the world.

That kind of thing was always hard for me to keep up with, and my current success is due to Complice and also getting an ADHD diagnosis with medication late last year, which has helped me transform my life in a major way.

I have a separate system for todos, namely Things for iOS/Mac, where I put future intentions that I want to remember. During the "settle" session, I look at that list, and decide which of the todos I might want to do today, and make them into intentions.

The other cool thing about Complice is that it has weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly reviews. So for example it's Monday morning now, so my next task (after my coffee and internet) is to go through the weekly review form, which shows me an overview of the past week, along with the previous weekly review, and asks me some customizable questions about how it's going for each area of my life.

Getting diagnosed also encouraged me to start the year by participating in Complice's "online goal-crafting workshop" which was fun and interesting. That's the first time I've ever really thought consciously about setting goals for myself!

One insight that I had about goals is that for them to really function as goals, for me, they need to be what I call "visible on the horizon." That basically means I can IMAGINE them, and when I imagine them I feel GOOD, the picture evoked is one that's nice and positive, so that my whole body can orient itself towards it.

I’ve found some use in having a “vision document”, which is essentially a written explanation of the person I want to be / goal I want to accomplish. If it’s possible to add images, those help too. The more complete the vision, the better.

By reading this every day with my morning coffee, I help re-orient myself and remember the path I was on. Without it, I tend to drift.

How long-term your vision is? Is it 1-year or 10-year or maybe 30-year? I have met a guy who had a vision for 50 years ahead - sound crazy but works for him.

I’d like to think I have a 20-year Vision, but that inevitably changes :)

One, five, and ten years seem like good markers for me.

When I think of something to be reminded about and I am near Alexa, I ask her to remind me.

Otherwise I have some temporary notes on paper, phone or laptop.

I use trello to plan the week and keep a backlog. Don’t obsess over it

Recover as much loss as possible in between natural and unavoidable disasters.

My wife tells me what she wants or doesn't want.

As for OKRs... they aren't well defined and subject to change at her discretion without notification.

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